WILMINGTON — Wilmington Charter lost a late lead to Padua in the third set of their volleyball match on Oct. 4, but that seemed to rally the Force. They bounced back to take the last two sets, holding off a furious Pandas rally in the fifth for a 3-2 victory. Set scores were 14-25, 25-19, 24-26, 25-17, and 15-12.
The teams split the first two sets, with Mary Mancini pacing the Pandas to a big win in the first, and Miranda Ting leading the way for Charter to level the match. Padua had already played three five-setters, and the feeling that this one could go the distance began to creep into the gymnasium.
Charter kept the momentum from the second flowing into the third. A tap by Haden Helojoki capped a 6-0 run that gave them an early 7-2 lead, prompting a Padua timeout. The Pandas came out of the break scoring the next four points, including kills by Aanya Yatavelli and Libby Neiburg.
A service error ended that run, and the Force went right back to work, scoring in succession on a kill by Elizabeth Thomas, a smash from Ting, and an ace from Seraphina Pabian. Charter’s Jenna Russell went nuts late in the set, scoring on a pair of blocks and a push kill to make it 22-17.
After a service error on the Force, the Pandas’ Kaitlyn Leberstien stuffed an overpass, and Charter, its lead cut to three, called timeout. The Force scored the next point, but a hitting error gave the serve back to the Pandas facing a three-point deficit.
An unforced error on Charter, followed by a service winner, but the Force’s lead to 23-22, but they got it to set point on a Helojoki tap. The next four points would go the Pandas’ way, however, including another Yatavelli attack and an ace from Mandy Quinn to end the set.
A team effort from Charter on both sides of the ball staked the Force to a 10-6 fourth-set advantage, but Logan Tuschinski ignited a Pandas run with a kill. Mancini tied the set at 10 when she crushed a ball into the floor, and Tuschinski put the Pandas ahead with a kill. Ting, however, rallied the Force, smacking a kill and delivering an ace during a 6-0 streak. The lead grew as large as nine points as Charter handily took the fourth, setting up an interesting fifth and final set.
For a bit, it looked anything but interesting. After Padua opened with a block from Leberstien, the Force scored seven of the next eight points. One of those was a kill from Helojoki after two one-armed saves by the Charter defense.
Ting seemed to be everywhere in the fourth. She scored three straight at one point. The lead grew to 12-4 on another Ting attack, and the end seemed near.
Yatavelli, however, scored on a cross, followed by a pair of Force errors. Ting scored again to make it 13-7, but Mancini answered with a smash of her own. Hannah McGuigan knocked one off the tape and to the floor, and Mancini smashed one of the Force wall. A block by Neiburg cut the Charter lead to two, and the Pandas’ fans were in full voice.
A service error sent it to match point. Padua saved once, but a violation called on the Pandas brought the match to an end.
Helojoki had 18 kills and Ting 17 to lead the Force. They both had three blocks, as did Russell. Charter (4-4) is off until Oct. 12, when they visit Tower Hill for a 5:15 p.m. start.
For Padua, Mancini had nine kills, and Yaravelli had eight. Yatavelli also had five aces. The Pandas (2-4) host Caravel on Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
All photos by Jason Winchell.